Forging the future: Real Madrid’s relentless recruitment and the rise of the ‘Endrick generation’


Almost two years ago, I wrote an article about the resounding success of Real Madrid’s youth policy. Between 2017 and 2018, the club recruited 18 players under the age of 21. These signatures planted seeds; the club signed each of them with the understanding that success doesn’t happen overnight. Patience was essential. Now, half a decade later, there is no doubt who the best players on the team are, nor who some of the best players in the world are: Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Valverde, Militao, Brahim, Camavinga . The fruits of the club’s labor have resulted in virtually no lag or “transition period” between one major team and another. This summer, the club are likely to secure the marquee signing, the one that has eluded them for so long – Kylian Mbappe. Still, the best way to define the success of the current project is to recognize that a player like Mbappé is a bonus rather than a necessity. The current team is strong enough to compete for all the titles, even without the highly sought-after Frenchman.

The project which started in 2017 is only halfway through in terms of its life cycle. Vinicius and Co. have the next 5 to 10 years to exhibit their best versions and announce the next great Madrid era. Many clubs would be content with this level of recruitment – ​​kick back and relax. Even more so with the imminent arrival of a superstar of Kylian Mbappe level. However, Real Madrid have already started to identify and build reserves for the next generation – the “Endrick Generation”. The 17-year-old Brazilian phenomenon may be the face of youth policy 2.0, but he won’t be alone.

The first project provides learning and understanding; process improvement. Madrid pounces on talent whatever the current needs. Talent will always trump current form and the cream will always rise to the top. Take Arda Guler, who was quickly exploited regardless of his role here and now. The plan for Arda does not involve putting him in the spotlight now, taking responsibility for the world’s biggest club as a teenager. Rather, it’s about integrating it into the club’s values, training at an elite level with the best in the world, learning from a world-class coaching staff and developing one’s physique and his tactical IQ. The goal is to have Arda ready in five years.

Not every talented young player who signs for the club will agree to this process. Timelines can be sped up or slowed down depending on sporting goals, but the ultimate goal is always a pathway to an important first-team role. Some routes may lead to Brahim’s route, a three-year loan away from the club, and others may follow Vinicius’ route: being thrust into the lineup as a teenager, then spending years in and out of clubs. a starting role. The development of very few young players is perfectly linear (except for the Mbappes, Haalands and Bellinghams of the world) – a career path like Militao’s, characterized by patience and perseverance, is more common.

The success of the first project fuels the success of the next generation. Convincing Endrick and Arda Guler that Madrid is the best place for them is easier when we talk about the career paths of Rodrygo and Vinicius. Reports suggest that Leny Yoro – an 18-year-old French central defender – is next on the list. Mastantuono, a 16-year-old with a gem of a left foot from River Plate’s famous youth academy, is another target. Talents within La Cantera, such as defenders Jesus Fortea and Jacobo Ramon – defensively oriented players often with the highest probability of moving to the first team – could also join this group.

As the club reaches the peak of the current youth project, they are relentlessly pursuing the next one. Florentino Perez and his leaders refuse to slow down. Much like a top athlete training at a different level and intensity than the average, Madrid stands above most other clubs. There is no rest on their laurels, no time to rejoice in current success. While players like Eder Militao, Valverde, Mbappe and Tchouameni will be over 30 in the next five years, Endrick, Arda, Yoro and others will enter their prime at 22-23 years old. Veterans like Nacho, Alaba, Carvajal and Kroos will be phased out, while the next generation will complete the initial youth policy.

Many of Europe’s elite clubs will attempt to emulate the success of Madrid’s strategy, thereby inflating the values ​​of young players. This has already happened with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City competing and signing young prospects. Adjustments and variations to recruitment policy will be necessary over time. The club’s first adjustment is not that different from its current policy, the idea is to double down on success: the recruitment of the best young talents in the world does not stop when the first generation reaches its peak; recruiting is a never-ending and ever-changing cycle. This philosophy ensures that as current stars age, the next generation is ready to take center stage, continuing a cycle of success.

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